Week Twenty-Nine: Beth

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There was an essay idea that I forgot. So many things are forgotten that I reckon we live three of four forgotten lives, all the parallel ideas that we worry ourselves with. The second guesses, the regrets, the I wish I had knowns, the if only I hads.  These feel like they exist out there with their own energy for me. They are not dead, not completely, just because they are not what actually happened.  I often wonder about the how these relate to my memories. Eventually the decisions that make up my history mix up with the ghostly parallel lives and I think some of the more powerful ones actually have the strength to wrestle their way into the back rooms of my history.

I remember as I child going to my first week of kindergarten. It was at a school near the church. We walked there from our yellow bungalow house on the busy road with lots of traffic. There was a chain link fence around it, and my Mom helped me find the classroom. Inside there were tall windows and short tables with art supplies. There was a smell of Play-Doh. There were lots of kids and a corner with books in it. I remember obeying the teacher and working quietly on a project, something that involved paint. But the whole time I was thinking about a book I was reading. I think it was one from my Children’s Classics set. I loved Little Women. Beth was my favorite character. I admired that she got sick and yet was still so positive. I wonder what it means that my childlike brain waned to be the sister that dies. So, maybe while I was painting I was actually dreaming about the sisters in their warm circle around the fire. I know I was wishing I had a book instead of a paintbrush.  As I finished my work, I got bored. When I got bored, I realized I had to go to the bathroom and pee. I told my teacher and she gave me a wooden stick with a big number pasted on it. This was the hall pass for our class and I was to carry it at all times I was not in our classroom. I was not to lose it or give it to anyone but the teacher. . I was young for my age. I can’t remember going to bathrooms on my own, except of course at my own house. I remember the halls had wood floors and that the school smelled good. I remember that I could hear other teacher’s talking, kids laughing in other classrooms, I remember the hall was being mopped at one end.  When I got to the bathroom, I was alone, but I went into a stall and I locked the door.  I heard the sound of my pee. Loud and resonating, echoing off the concrete of the walls. And then a light started flashing and I hear a siren; It was so loud. I couldn’t even think.  What was happening? I didn’t even have my pants properly pulled up. I panicked and froze. I was so uncertain of what to do or what direction to go that I stood up, cleaned myself off and flushed the toilet in a daze. I then heard more noise as I could now hear kids jumping and running through the gravel outside the school. I could hear teachers telling them to line up and be quiet. Over it all was the siren. It was hurting my ears. I was right below the speaker. And so I sat back down. After all, no one knew where I was. I was alone. If I just made myself small enough I would be fine. I wasn’t really even here in this bathroom at this school or in all this screaming noise. I was sitting by the fire with my sisters and my mother and we were knitting. When, the men entered the bathroom with their loud voices, I just raised my feet and curled up on the toilet. I was not anything. I was not there.  To me they sounded like they were angry.  Probably they were just moving quickly, opening the doors of the stalls and checking for people. They were ready to leave when on tried the door of the stall I was in. It did not swing open.  They said something to me. But, I pretended I was not there and that I couldn’t hear.  I closed my eyes so that when they knocked and started talking to me, they were just voices far away. But instead of going away, they got louder. They made more noise and tried to open the door. Then I was scared. If they found me, they would be mad. I would be in trouble. I might not get to go to school anymore or my Mom might think I was bad. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry.  The next thing I know a large man with a beard had me in his arms and was carrying me outside. They were looking for my class and my teacher, asking me questions. I could only repeat in my head that I was sorry.. I was sorry. I was sorry.  When I was finally reunited with my teacher she asked me why I kept saying I was sorry.  I told her, tears and snot running down my face that I no longer had the hall pass. I told her I was out of the classroom and I did not have it and that I was sorry.  I was really sorry. I had not wanted to paint. I had left the classroom. I set down the hall pass. I pretended I was not in the bathroom. I hid from the men. I had failed in everything. If only I had done a better painting, If I had not been thinking about Beth. If I had gone to the bathroom sooner. Or later. Or if I had asked the teacher to come with me. If there had been someone else in the bathroom. If I had not gone to school that day. If I had held my Mom’s other hand on the walk. If If If if. This is the first time I remember the intersection of independence and then fear and indecision. A feeling that seems to define much of my personal history. The accretion of these moments when I repeatedly go back and wonder what other paths might have existed. What exact branches of minute choices led me to arrive just here. At this point.

There was an essay idea that I had that I forgot. So many things are forgotten that I reckon we live three of four forgotten lives, all the parallel ideas that we worry ourselves with. The second guesses, the regrets, the I wish I had knowns, the if only I hads.  These feel like they exist out there with their own energy for me. They are not dead, not completely just because they are not what actually happened.  I often wonder about the how these relate to my memories. Eventually the decisions that make up my history mix up with the ghostly parallel lives and I think some of the more powerful ones actually have the strength to wrestle their way into my story. I remember as I child going to my first week of kindergarten. It was at a school near the church. We walked there from our yellow bungalow house on the busy road with lots of traffic. There was a chain link fence around it, and my Mom helped me find the classroom. Inside there were tall windows and short tables with art supplies. There was a smell of Play-Doh. There were lots of kids and a corner with books in it. I remember obeying the teacher and working quietly on a project, something that involved paint. But the whole time I was thinking about a book I was reading. I think it was one from my Children’s Classics set. I loved Little Women. Beth was my favorite character. I admired that she got sick and yet was still so positive. I wonder what it means that my childlike brain waned to be the sister that dies. So, maybe while I was painting I was actually dreaming about the sisters in their warm circle around the fire. I know I was wishing I had a book instead of a paintbrush.  As I finished my work, I got bored. When I got bored, I realized I had to go to the bathroom and pee. I told my teacher and she gave me a wooden stick with a big number pasted on it. This was the hall pass for our class and I was to carry it at all times I was not in our classroom. I was not to lose it or give it to anyone but the teacher. . I was young for my age. I can’t remember going to bathrooms on my own, except of course at my own house. I remember the halls had wood floors and that the school smelled good. I remember that I could hear other teacher’s talking, kids laughing in other classrooms, I remember the hall was being mopped at one end.  When I got to the bathroom, I was alone, but I went into a stall and I locked the door.  I heard the sound of my pee. Loud and resonating, echoing off the concrete of the walls. And then a light started flashing and I hear a siren; It was so loud. I couldn’t even think.  What was happening? I didn’t even have my pants properly pulled up. I panicked and froze. I was so uncertain of what to do or what direction to go that I stood up, cleaned myself off and flushed the toilet in a daze. I then heard more noise as I could now hear kids jumping and running through the gravel outside the school. I could hear teachers telling them to line up and be quiet. Over it all was the siren. It was hurting my ears. I was right below the speaker. And so I sat back down. After all, no one knew where I was. I was alone. If I just made myself small enough I would be fine. I wasn’t really even here in this bathroom at this school or in all this screaming noise. I was sitting by the fire with my sisters and my mother and we were knitting. When, the men entered the bathroom with their loud voices, I just raised my feet and curled up on the toilet. I was not anything. I was not there.  To me they sounded like they were angry.  Probably they were just moving quickly, opening the doors of the stalls and checking for people. They were ready to leave when on tried the door of the stall I was in. It did not swing open.  They said something to me. But, I pretended I was not there and that I couldn’t hear.  I closed my eyes so that when they knocked and started talking to me, they were just voices far away. But instead of going away, they got louder. They made more noise and tried to open the door. Then I was scared. If they found me, they would be mad. I would be in trouble. I might not get to go to school anymore or my Mom might think I was bad. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry.  The next thing I know a large man with a beard had me in his arms and was carrying me outside. They were looking for my class and my teacher, asking me questions. I could only repeat in my head that I was sorry.. I was sorry. I was sorry.  When I was finally reunited with my teacher she asked me why I kept saying I was sorry.  I told her, tears and snot running down my face that I no longer had the hall pass. I told her I was out of the classroom and I did not have it and that I was sorry.  I was really sorry. I had not wanted to paint. I had left the classroom. I set down the hall pass. I pretended I was not in the bathroom. I hid from the men. I had failed in everything. If only I had done a better painting, If I had not been thinking about Beth. If I had gone to the bathroom sooner. Or later. Or if I had asked the teacher to come with me. If there had been someone else in the bathroom. If I had not gone to school that day. If I had held my Mom’s other hand on the walk. If If If if. This is the first time I remember the intersection of independence and then fear and indecision. A feeling that seems to define much of my personal history. The accretion of these moments when I repeatedly go back and wonder what other paths might have existed. What exact branches of minute choices led me to arrive just here. At this point.

There was an essay idea that I had that I forgot. So many things are forgotten that I reckon we live three of four forgotten lives, all the parallel ideas that we worry ourselves with. The second guesses, the regrets, the I wish I had knowns, the if only I hads.  These feel like they exist out there with their own energy for me. They are not dead, not completely just because they are not what actually happened.  I often wonder about the how these relate to my memories. Eventually the decisions that make up my history mix up with the ghostly parallel lives and I think some of the more powerful ones actually have the strength to wrestle their way into my story. I remember as I child going to my first week of kindergarten. It was at a school near the church. We walked there from our yellow bungalow house on the busy road with lots of traffic. There was a chain link fence around it, and my Mom helped me find the classroom. Inside there were tall windows and short tables with art supplies. There was a smell of Play-Doh. There were lots of kids and a corner with books in it. I remember obeying the teacher and working quietly on a project, something that involved paint. But the whole time I was thinking about a book I was reading. I think it was one from my Children’s Classics set. I loved Little Women. Beth was my favorite character. I admired that she got sick and yet was still so positive. I wonder what it means that my childlike brain waned to be the sister that dies. So, maybe while I was painting I was actually dreaming about the sisters in their warm circle around the fire. I know I was wishing I had a book instead of a paintbrush.  As I finished my work, I got bored. When I got bored, I realized I had to go to the bathroom and pee. I told my teacher and she gave me a wooden stick with a big number pasted on it. This was the hall pass for our class and I was to carry it at all times I was not in our classroom. I was not to lose it or give it to anyone but the teacher. . I was young for my age. I can’t remember going to bathrooms on my own, except of course at my own house. I remember the halls had wood floors and that the school smelled good. I remember that I could hear other teacher’s talking, kids laughing in other classrooms, I remember the hall was being mopped at one end.  When I got to the bathroom, I was alone, but I went into a stall and I locked the door.  I heard the sound of my pee. Loud and resonating, echoing off the concrete of the walls. And then a light started flashing and I hear a siren; It was so loud. I couldn’t even think.  What was happening? I didn’t even have my pants properly pulled up. I panicked and froze. I was so uncertain of what to do or what direction to go that I stood up, cleaned myself off and flushed the toilet in a daze. I then heard more noise as I could now hear kids jumping and running through the gravel outside the school. I could hear teachers telling them to line up and be quiet. Over it all was the siren. It was hurting my ears. I was right below the speaker. And so I sat back down. After all, no one knew where I was. I was alone. If I just made myself small enough I would be fine. I wasn’t really even here in this bathroom at this school or in all this screaming noise. I was sitting by the fire with my sisters and my mother and we were knitting. When, the men entered the bathroom with their loud voices, I just raised my feet and curled up on the toilet. I was not anything. I was not there.  To me they sounded like they were angry.  Probably they were just moving quickly, opening the doors of the stalls and checking for people. They were ready to leave when on tried the door of the stall I was in. It did not swing open.  They said something to me. But, I pretended I was not there and that I couldn’t hear.  I closed my eyes so that when they knocked and started talking to me, they were just voices far away. But instead of going away, they got louder. They made more noise and tried to open the door. Then I was scared. If they found me, they would be mad. I would be in trouble. I might not get to go to school anymore or my Mom might think I was bad. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry.  The next thing I know a large man with a beard had me in his arms and was carrying me outside. They were looking for my class and my teacher, asking me questions. I could only repeat in my head that I was sorry.. I was sorry. I was sorry.  When I was finally reunited with my teacher she asked me why I kept saying I was sorry.  I told her, tears and snot running down my face that I no longer had the hall pass. I told her I was out of the classroom and I did not have it and that I was sorry.  I was really sorry. I had not wanted to paint. I had left the classroom. I set down the hall pass. I pretended I was not in the bathroom. I hid from the men. I had failed in everything. If only I had done a better painting, If I had not been thinking about Beth. If I had gone to the bathroom sooner. Or later. Or if I had asked the teacher to come with me. If there had been someone else in the bathroom. If I had not gone to school that day. If I had held my Mom’s other hand on the walk. If If If if. This is the first time I remember the intersection of independence and then fear and indecision. A feeling that seems to define much of my personal history. The accretion of these moments when I repeatedly go back and wonder what other paths might have existed. What exact branches of minute choices led me to arrive just here. At this point.

This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.

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